A number of people suggested new cards for v1.2; their names are listed next to the cards and their addresses are at the end of the article. Sometimes several people suggested similar card ideas; in that case I either chose the wording of the suggestion I liked best, or made up a new card out of the suggestions. Either way, everyone who suggested an idea is listed with the resulting card. This will probably be the last update for a while (at least until after the summer), but keep sending in those card ideas and spreading this "game"; it's been a lot of fun so far!

Usenet: The Flaming

v 1.2
Somewhat-Limited Edition

copyright © 1995 Matthew E. Grossman
see end of article for distribution information and contributors' email addresses

A collectible trading card game of Usenet politics and global domination!

In this game you take the role of a "Medusa", a sinister individual plotting to control Usenet through your "tentacles", operating from the sites under your control. Each player starts out with five "cred" (symbolizing your credibility on Usenet); when you have no cred, everyone will ignore you and you have LOST! The objective of the game is to be the last player remaining with cred. (Eric S. Raymond has suggested starting with 10 cred to make the game last longer; as it is it looks like it would be over pretty quickly.)

There are four types of cards: sites, continuous events, instant events, and attacks. The site cards are shuffled into a separate site deck; the other cards are shuffled together into a play deck. To start, each player (on his or her first turn, proceeding clockwise) draws three site cards and places them face up on the table, then draws seven cards from their play deck. Play begins, in the same order.

At the start of a players turn, he (come on, how many girls are stupid enough to play these games anyway? OUCH, sorry Amy . . . ) draws one play card if he has less than seven cards in his hand. If he has no cards in his hand he draws seven new cards from his play deck. The player then brings on-line (untaps) any of his sites that are currently down (tapped). The player may then play attack or event cards. Since these things are being done by your tentacles at the sites you control, playing a card involves downing a site (tying it up with your schemes). Each attack or event card has a power rating, which indicates how powerful a site must be in order to play that card. These numbers go from 1 to 3, with 3 being the most powerful, so mit.edu can play any card, but hamp.hampshire.edu can only play cards with a power rating of 1. A player may end his turn at any time after he has brought his sites on-line. He must end his turn if all of his sites are down. The player seated clockwise then begins his turn.

Event cards may be played at any time. Continuous events remain on the board after they have been played (e.g. Turkish Revisionist 'Bot), instant events produce their effect then vanish from play (e.g. Not Allowed). Events take effect in the order they are played, but some events (e.g. Not Allowed) work retroactively. Lengthy discussion and hair-splitting analysis of the rules is required to solve these difficulties.

Attack cards may only be played during your turn, and are the only cards that directly effect Medusas. The name is confusing; some attack cards are beneficial, and you can play an attack card on yourself.


Each card is listed by type, name, power, and description. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental. Really.

Site cards

(using these as guidelines, you can easily make up more)

hamp.hampshire.edu, 1, A small, "alternative" college.

mit.edu, 3, M.I.T. 'Nuff said.

netcom.com, 2, A large Internet service provider.

aol.com, 3, A large commercial network. Every time you down AOL, you lose a cred. -Arne Knudson and John Kovalic

Instant Event cards:

NOT ALLOWED, 1, Leader Kibo has spoken. Retroactively blocks last event card.

INTERNET WORM, 3, An undergraduate "accidentally" releases his homework onto the Internet. Curiously, only your rivals' sites are affected . . . Downs every other players' sites for one turn. All of them.

UNIX PASSWORD SECURITY FLAW, 2, Another one? You may look at one other player's hand.

GULLIBLE CONGRESSMAN, 2, You convince the government to finance the "information superhighway". You may place one more site into play.

FORGED SPAM (spam), 1, You forge a spam originating from the target site. It goes down for one turn.

CANTOR AND SIEGEL (spam), 2, Those darn lawyers get an account on the target site. It is permanently removed from play.

MASTER CRACKER, 3, "I'm doing this for scientific purposes . . . really!" You may look at one other player's hand and take one card to add to your hand (if you want to).

FLAMEWAR, 1, Causes the target player to miss his next turn as he is drawn into a massive flamewar. Also blocks the effects of a Righteous Rant (no one gains cred).

CHILDHOODS' END, 2, Our brothers in intelligence arrive from the stars in time to save humanity from its own folly. This card negates the effects of Global Thermonuclear War; GTW is removed from play and all players still in the game draw until they have three sites in play again.

DIRTY GIFS (forgery), 1, You forge a post to c.i.announce saying that dirty gifs are on the target site, when they are not. Target site goes down for one turn. -Arne Knudson

HOT SITE. One of your rival's sites finds that it has been playing host to a huge library of copyrighted porno GIFS. Reduce the value of that site by 1, or remove it if it was already a 1. -Steve Jackson

OLD FART, 2, Say "I was on the net when you were still toilet-training" and reverse any cred damage done to you by the previous card -- he who played it takes the damage instead. -Eric S. Raymond

TROGLODYTE FLAMER, 2, A gray eminence from the days when ITS or TOPS-10 reigned supreme scorches target for ignorance of 36-bit computers and ineffably superior pre-UNIX operating systems. Target's cred-gaining attempt fails. -Eric S. Raymond

RAPID DEBUGGING SKILL, 3, Negate damage from a SERIOUS BUG REPORT if played immediately after SERIOUS BUG REPORT is played.-Eric S. Raymond

Continuous Event cards

GLOBAL THERMONUCLEAR WAR, 1, The Internet was built to survive this, right? All players must discard the sites currently in play and each draw one new site. As long as this card is in play, each player may only have one site. (If you're wondering why this card is only 1 to play, it's because any fool with a C-64 can hack the Pentagon. Remember "War Games"?).

CANCELMOOSE, 2, As long as Cancelmoose is in play, no spams may be played, and any spams already in play are removed.

RISKS DIGEST, 1, As long as you have this card in play, your sites may not be attacked by Master Cracker or Unix Password Security Flaw. This does not protect any other players' sites.

TURKISH REVISIONIST 'BOT (spam), 1, For some nefarious reason, you set up a 'bot to decrease the signal-noise ratio on Usenet (even more?) . . . but it gets out of hand. As long as this card is in play, every card costs one more power than the listed amount to play.

CANCELBUNNY, 2, Dead agent those SP's, OSA OT's! The Church of $cientology decides to cancel your posts. As long as this card is in play, the target may only play one card per turn.

ARCHIVE SITE, 3, "Knowledge is Power". This card allows you to take one card from any player's discard pile, and "archive" it at the site which you played this card on (must be one of your sites). You may then play this card in the future, as if it was in your hand. After you have played the card, you must discard it (though you could then archive it again). If the archive site goes down, you lose the card archived there; if the site is removed from play, this card is discarded.

PGP, 1, You start using Pretty Good Privacy's public key encryption to authenticate your correspondence. As long as PGP is in play, you cannot be affected by forgery cards.

SUPERCOMPUTER, 3, target site may untap one additional time per turn. -Arne Knudson

T1 LINE, 2, target site now produces one additional power when you tap it. -Arne Knudson

Attack cards:

MASSIVE TROLL, 1, You are caught up in a massive troll involving rec.org.mensa, rec.arts.startrek.misc, rec.aquaria, sci.physics, alt.music.ska, alt.sex.bondage, alt.fan.hofstadter, and alt.conspiracy (among others). You make a complete fool of yourself in front of thousands of net.citizens. Lose 1 cred.

OOPS!, 1, You meant to do an e-mail reply to that . . . interesting . . . message in alt.sex.bondage. Instead, you post to alt.activism.militia. Lose 1 cred.

B1FF!!1!, 2, B1FF HAS THIS K00L N3W ACC0UNT!!!111! 1'M G0NNA P0ST FR0M 1T ALL THE T1M3!!1!!! Your younger brother gets hold of your password. You'll never live this down. Lose 1 cred.

FEAR THE KABAL!, 2, Dave Hayes and Stephen Boursy independently reveal your fiendish plans for usenet domination. All players take a vote as to whether target gains or loses 1 cred.

INITIATION, 3, In a secret 4 a.m. IRC session with Dave Lawrence, you are initiated into the Cabal. Gain 1 cred.

TIME, 1, Time Magazine writes an article on the Internet and quotes you. Lose 1 cred.

TIME AGAIN, 2, Time Magazine writes an article on the Internet and calls you a "cyberpunk guru". Lose 2 cred.

ETERNAL FAME, 2, Someone creates an alt. group named after you. Gain 1 cred.

ETERNAL FAME ON AN EPIC SCALE, 3, Someone creates an alt.sex. group named after you. Gain 2 cred.

ETERNAL FOOL, 1, You create an alt. group named after yourself. Lose 1 cred.

REAL LIFE, 1, You find something better to do than take over Usenet. Lose 1 cred, but gain a life.

DROP THE KEYBOARD, PUNK!, 2, You get raided by the Secret Service. Skip a turn, but gain 1 cred.

SUMMON SHUB-INTERNET, 3, You summon Shub-Internet and wreak havoc on Prodigy and AOL. Gain 1 cred.M

MY AMIGA IS BETTER THAN . . ., 1, You get involved in one of those computer hardware flamewars. Get a life! Until then, lose 1 cred.

BITE ME, MACBOY!!!, 2, You start one of those computer hardware flamewars. Lose 2 cred, you dweeb.

RIGHTEOUS RANT, 2, An unusually stylish and eloquent posting which contains polysyllabic words and polite, correctly spelled English. If no one counters with another Righteous Rant or Flame, gain 1 cred on your next turn. For each person which adds or counters with another Righteous Rant, each rant-player gains a cred (i.e. 3 rants = each rant-player gains 3 cred). (Advanced rules: 3 righteous rants in the same turn automatically ends the game, as it is now a discussion and no longer Usenet.) -Chris Keroack

SECRETS MAN WAS NOT MEANT TO KNOW, 1, You quoted an entire 22k long flamewar about gay characters in Star Trek to simply add "So do I!" at the bottom. Lose 1 cred. -Chris Keroack, John Kovalic, Anthony David

ENTRY ACCEPTED INTO JARGON FILE, 2, Gain 1 cred and leave this card in your battle line, unless someone else immediately plays TROGLODYTE FLAMER in which case the card is buried. -Eric S. Raymond

TNHD EDITION PUBLISHED, 3, All players who have ENTRY ACCEPTED INTO JARGON FILE cards on the table gain 2 cred. All such cards are buried. -Eric S. Raymond

WARLORD OF THE WEST RESERVATION, 2, The Inner Circle of alt.fan.warlord shreds target's oversized sig block. Target loses 1 cred. -Eric S. Raymond

FREEWARE RELEASE, 3, You actually release a major freeware project. Gain 3 cred and leave the card on the table. -Eric S. Raymond

SERIOUS BUG REPORT, 1, May only be played against someone with FREEWARE RELEASE on the table. Target loses 1 cred. -Eric S. Raymond

CONVINCINGLY FAKE POST (forgery), 2, You forge a post that seems SO real that everyone picks it up. Major magazines publish the post's content as the Gospel Truth. Little do they know that a couple of hours with Photoshop hacked up those pix you sent out. All other players lose 1 cred. (This comes from my ex-roommate, Slu Aspiks', post to comp.sys.amiga.* about the A4000 we "beta-tested." Commodore hated him so much they almost didn't grant him a developer's license later.) -Tony Reynolds

Even more U:TF . . .


Distribution Notice

USENET: THE FLAMING v 1.2 is copyright © 1995 by me (Matthew E. Grossman). It may be freely distributed provided that this notice remains attached and no fee is charged for distribution. If you have any card or rule ideas email them to me at megF91@hamp.hampshire.edu. If I use your ideas in the next version I'll give you credit.

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